The Creepy Syndrome Review – Some stories are best told alone

The Creepy Syndrome is a horror anthology where the stronger stories are unfortunately held back by the weaker ones.
The Creepy Syndrome Review
Image: Boomfire Games

Indie horror games are notoriously a mixed bag. When you load up a fresh new indie horror game, you know you’re in for one of two experiences. either you’re about to play the most shocking, creative horror game you’ve ever experienced, a game that takes risks that pay off phenomenally well and original ideas that forever change your opinion on the general, or you’re in for grueling schlock that won’t justify the time or money you put into it.

It’s a gamble that horror fans are used to, historically present in the movie side of the genre since the beginning. However, horror games seem to distinctly lack the b-movie, so-bad-it’s-good title, and in my opinion, only ever fall on either side of the good or bad extremes without treading anywhere in the middle. When I loaded up this title, I was fully aware that my opinion of the game was going to fall on either side of these extremes, and while I want to give it some credit, I have to say it’s leaning far on the side of bad.

The Creepy Syndrome is.. complicated, and hard to judge. Most anthologies are, often featuring a pretty wide range of quality between the stories featured. While this game definitely has some merit to it, and it’s really hard to be offended by the modest price tag, I was nevertheless disappointed overall by the experience and I can’t find myself recommending it, despite some very apparent merit.

To summarize, The Creepy Syndrome is a horror anthology featuring four short games for you to play. Each game plays differently, has a different story to tell, and features a different pixelated art style ranging from 1-bit to a more modern application of the style. The art is definitely The Creepy Syndrome’s strongest point, and the game is really pretty to look at.

The game’s diversity might be a strong selling point in the art department, but when it comes to the storytelling it is unfortunately the biggest thing holding it back.

The Creepy Syndrome 1
Image: Boomfire Games

The Creepy Syndrome opens up with a mysterious psychiatrist, with each story being a different patient’s account of something that happened to them in their life.. kind of. This narrative doesn’t really make sense in a lot of cases, especially when you get the bad ends of stories, but it’s a decent presentation tool regardless. As the psychiatrist points out after each tale, the stories in each “session” revolve around psychological themes. Guilt, trauma, and repressed memories are the theme of the four stories.. except, not really. The game plays it pretty loose with its own rules.

Each story in the anthology deserves to be analyzed and reviewed separately, as each one is of a substantially different quality than the others. If you’re not interested in seeing details of each story and just want a blanket review, I’m going to go ahead and say that of the four games present, two were pretty good, and two were terrible. Each story has a good and bad ending, and I was able to get the good ending on the stories with the strongest narrative, where the options before you make sense and aren’t contrived and weird.

The first story, A Watchful Gaze, is pretty decent. It’s less of a game and more of an interactive cutscene, with a quick time event right at the end. Without any spoilers, the story follows the survivors of a care accident and heavily revolves around guilt as a theme. Near the end of the story, all the pieces started to come together, and I had a big “Oh!” moment, just for the game to immediately explain everything as if I was too stupid to understand.

The Creepy Syndrome 2
Image: Boomfire Games

Besides that part, I’d say the story was pretty good and the little reflex boss fight at the end was fun enough.

The Creepy Syndrome 3
Image: Boomfire Games

The second story, Lord of the Road, is about a police officer investigating a cult that recently unalived itself. To be frank, this one sucks. The story is not only lame, contrived, and poorly written, but I’m being extra mean here because whoever designed this one went absolutely obnoxiously hard on the sound design. All of the “scares” in this session are derived from incredibly loud, shrieking 1-bit sounds that will destroy your eardrums.

The Creepy Syndrome 4
Image: Boomfire Games

When you pair these cheap attempts at scares with a story that doesn’t really make any sense, it’s just an overall bad experience and it left me kind of angry.

The third story, The Red Button, had a pretty interesting concept. It revolves around the operator of the nuclear button, given the order to launch his missile. This short puzzle game is artificially inflated by some really long loading screens when you navigate back and forth between rooms.

The Creepy Syndrome 5
Image: Boomfire Games

The horror of this one is supposed to come from flashing images of scary faces and gore, that ramp up as you get closer to pushing the button. I interpreted this as the operator’s guilty conscious over destroying the world, but the images are just kind of weird-looking monsters and don’t portray this theme very well at all. Also, when he fires the nuke, your bunker is within the blast range, which means he was aiming at something incredibly close to the bunker for some reason.

Overall, I thought this one was just kinda funny but didn’t really work as a horror story.

The Creepy Syndrome 7
Image: Boomfire Games

The game ends with its strongest story, Nocturnal. This simple, short minigame is about a young girl attempting a magical ritual at home when someone — or something — breaks in. The tension of walking through your house late at night and shutting off all the lights is effective and relatable, and the reflex minigame where you have to hold your breath to hide from the intruder is effective and fun.

The Creepy Syndrome 8
Image: Boomfire Games

I kinda wish this one went on longer, but the whole game didn’t take more than 30 minutes to complete, so that might be asking a lot.

The Final Word

The Creepy Syndrome is an ambitious little game, plagued by amateurish writing and cheap jump scares that at best won’t satisfy horror fans and at worse will annoy them. Half of the game’s anthology of stories is held back by the other, and the two decent stories aren’t strong enough to make up for the weaker ones.

4

The Creepy Syndrome was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! The Creepy Syndrome is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation 4 and 5.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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